Friday, April 11, 2008

The Last Day at Keeneland

What a day Sunday was! The game plan was to get to the track a little later in the morning. Somerset Sam wasn't going over to the track and we weren't meeting with Kellyn until about 10AM in the track kitchen, so I was going to sleep late and try to catch the last 30 minutes or so of morning workouts. That was the plan. I was railside by 8:10...

I couldn't help myself. It was my last day and I wasn't going to spend it sleeping. I did sleep until 7, so that was something! I found myself next to Barclay Tagg putting a couple of his horses through some exercise. I couldn't determine which of his horses were working out, but I did manage to tell him that I have been a fan of his work since the late 80's in Maryland. He laughed, said thanks and said that felt like a lifetime ago. I couldn't help but agree with him.

No more than 10 minutes later, I was eyewitness to a brief conflict on the racetrack between an outider and an exercise rider or assistant trainer. I thought it was unusual that the rider was putting his horse through some cutting-horse style turns on the racetrack. The outrider asked the young Irishman to please stop as it could spook the other horses. He answered back in a think brogue that he was teaching his horse manners for the safety of the other horses. The outrider was buying none of it and politely, but firmly, told him again to stop. This time the rider lit into the outrider telling him in no uncertain terms that he was arrogant and that if he was riding a racehorse he wouldn't say anything at all. The outrider stiffened and told him one last time to either stop because it was against the rules or they could go into the racing office. The youngster stopped and finally shut his mouth. All this within two feet of me.

David met up with me around 9:30 and watched the works for a while and then headed over to the track kitchen to meet with Kellyn and talk about Sam. David sums up the conversation over on his blog at, so I won't get into that but once again I was simply enthralled by the conversation between the two horsemen.

The day at the races was, plainly stated, unusual. I came out of the gate fast. In the first race I had 7/2 Anne Rides Again. She was the second choice, but I really thought she was a gimme. In the second I nailed 9-1 first timer Jade Dreamer against a weak field of more experienced maidens. I didn't have the $110 Daily Double, but I was up a bundle and was 2 for 2. And then the rest of the card hit...

I piled on the third race with the exotics thinking I would strike while the iron was hot. The iron wasn't so hot anymore. Half my day's profit was gone in an instant. And it kept rolling down hill from there. I skipped the fourth and then lost the fifth, sixth and seventh. I usually bet win, place and show and an exacta - either a two horse exacta box or I'll key one horse with two others. I completely strayed from my game plan in these middle races. I bet trifectas and superfectas and I paid dearly.

After the seventh I declared that I was going back to my original game plan and tried to beat favorite Kodiak Kowboy in the 71st running of the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes at seven furlongs. The Kowboy was making his second start back after easily ripping up a soft Optional Claiming group at Oaklawn three weeks back. There was no value in him at even money. A more intriguing prospect for me was Keep Laughing, a horse making only his third start and shipping in from Florida. He broke his maiden easily at Gulfstream while lurking just off a quick pace. All weekend long the track was playing EXACTLY that way. If you could stalk the pace, angle to the outside and blow by the field, you were a winner. An added plus was a nice sub-:48 second workout over the Polytrack here at Keeneland - another angle that I loved. And at 5-1 it was a nice price.
Sure enough, he raced third just off the pace for most of the race, angled to the outside and Johnny Velasquez rode hard to win by a nose. Finally, another winning ticket! I should have had the exacta as well as David really like strong second place finisher Hatta Ford, but I didn't like the first race in America off a weak Poly workout. Otherwise there was a lot to like about the horse including a win in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket and a nice fourth in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lugardere at Longchamp. It was a $98 exacta that I should have had.

But it was off to the last race on the card (1 1/1th miles over the turf) and an overlay that suprised and delighted me. Sailor's Cap is a lightly raced 3-year old colt that forced a very fast pace (1:09.2 for 6 furlongs) on the turf at Gulfstream last out. Storming Off, a Pletcher trainee, was a legitimate favorite, but at even money I didn't think he was THAT legitimate. I bet Sailor's Cap, but used Storming Off in the exacta. Sailor's Cap won drawing off from Storming Off in deep stretch. Another nice priced winner (7-1) and a solid exacta with the favorite on the bottom ($52.80). A nice end to a fantastic weekend. This odd, book-ended day ended up making me a winner for the weekend and with the winning odds (7/2, 9-1, 5-1, 7-1) gave me confidence in my handicapping. Now it was time for pizza for dinner and back to the hotel to relieve the day (well, parts of the day!) and get ready for the 12+ hour trip home in the morning.

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